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Stereo A/V

andrew

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I’m looking for a well-engineered, cost effective, solution for A/V with stereo speakers plus multiple subwoofers. The current incarnation of my set-up is shown below and sees an HDMI Audio De-Embedder used to extract Digital S/PDIF (Stereo) which is then subject to overall EQ via mini-DSP DDRC-22D and multi-sub optimization using mini-DSP 10x10HD. The problem is that the HDMI switch is unreliable, and when things go wrong there are a lot of boxes to diagnose, so I’m considering options.

My core requirements are a solution for multiple HDMI sources, overall EQ (ideally DL), multiple subwoofers and balanced outputs. One answer is the Evoke DAC with HDMI input, but this introduces a need for A/D to deliver the DSP | EQ. The more obvious answer is an AVR or Pre-Pro, but the options are clear as Denon X3700H doesn’t have Dirac or Balanced Outputs whilst something like NAD T758 has Dirac but a poor review. The HTP-1 meets the various requirements but quite a cost given the use case.

Any suggestions?

System.PNG
 

pjug

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Your TV doesn't have 3 HDMI inputs and digital audio output? I assume not since you have the HDMI switch. If your TV is not high end, maybe replacing the TV is an economical and straightforward solution?
 
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andrew

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Your TV doesn't have 3 HDMI inputs and digital audio output? I assume not since you have the HDMI switch. If your TV is not high end, maybe replacing the TV is an economical and straightforward solution?
I've been attempting to avoid the use of a TV / optical out on the assumption that it's not commensurate with good sound quality but I'm unsure if this is, in fact, the case.
 

Golfx

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Your route with a new TV and AVR would be HDMI via eARC.
 

Ata

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If it was not for the 3 subwoofers I'd say go with one of the just released Dirac enabled AVRs from Onkyo, Integra, or Pioneer. Measurements should start trickling in the next month or two.

For movies centre channel is recommended, unless there is only one person watching from the MLP. Also SPDIF will only carry compressed multichannel (DD or DTS) thus very big compromise in quality for anything that is multichannel.
 

pjug

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I've been attempting to avoid the use of a TV / optical out on the assumption that it's not commensurate with good sound quality but I'm unsure if this is, in fact, the case.
Yeah, I don't know. But I would expect it to be comparable to an inexpensive audio extractor. I think @Blumlein 88 looked at performance of one of those. I don't know if he or someone else around here have done the same for TV optical.
 

pjug

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FWIW I have two paths from my bluray player to my DAC/preamp. Direct digital coax connection, and HDMI->TV->optical. TV is a cheap fairly old Vizio. Doing a crude listening comparison, level matching just by ear, I can't tell the difference. Unfortunately with my DAC switching inputs throws a relay so there is a second or so of muting. Not an instant switch.

Anyway, this doesn't say much but if OP is able to do similar with one of the HDMI devices you can let your ears make the call whether the TV optical out is OK for you or not.
 

JeffS7444

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I’m looking for a well-engineered, cost effective, solution for A/V with stereo speakers plus multiple subwoofers. The current incarnation of my set-up is shown below and sees an HDMI Audio De-Embedder used to extract Digital S/PDIF (Stereo) which is then subject to overall EQ via mini-DSP DDRC-22D and multi-sub optimization using mini-DSP 10x10HD. The problem is that the HDMI switch is unreliable, and when things go wrong there are a lot of boxes to diagnose, so I’m considering options.
Do you wish to listen to Dolby and DTS soundtracks? Because unless you configure your source components to output PCM (2-channel, in the case of Apple TV, don't know about Xbox), I think your audio extractor will simply pass unaltered bitstream to MiniDSP, which can't decode those proprietary formats.
 
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andrew

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If it was not for the 3 subwoofers I'd say go with one of the just released Dirac enabled AVRs from Onkyo, Integra, or Pioneer. Measurements should start trickling in the next month or two.
I've kind of discounted the Onkyo, Integra and Pioneer AVR on the basis that there's no balanced output nor support for multiple subs. That said, if I placed the 10x10HD after the AVR then I'd be able to deal with the multiple subs (and the balanced outputs) at the expense of the A/D conversion.

For movies centre channel is recommended, unless there is only one person watching from the MLP. Also SPDIF will only carry compressed multichannel (DD or DTS) thus very big compromise in quality for anything that is multichannel.
I'd love to get a centre channel but it's hard to make work in the room | set-up and, basically, I get the MLP as no-one else in the family cares too much about sound quality.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ewhd-prosumer-ultrahd-hdmi-3x1-switcher.1560/ Does not say anything about what Toslink from the TV is of course. Just an example that some such things aren't terribly high performance.
Thanks - no unexpected at all. I'd hazard a guess that it's no different for the optical out from the TV but don't have any evidence. It's fair to say that (the same track) sounds a lot better from the music streamer than via Apple TV | HDMI Switch.


Do you wish to listen to Dolby and DTS soundtracks? Because unless you configure your source components to output PCM (2-channel, in the case of Apple TV, don't know about Xbox), I think your audio extractor will simply pass unaltered bitstream to MiniDSP, which can't decode those proprietary formats.
Yes, I have the sources output PCM.
 

pseudoid

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...The more obvious answer is an AVR or Pre-Pro, but the options are clear ...Any suggestions?
My last 3 A/V systems were assembled using separate PreAmp/Processors (Pre/Pro) and PowerAmplifiers. I don't like AIO systems, and retiring Pre/Pro is much less a costly proposition, because you are NOT throwing out the power amplifier sections as you would w/an old AVR.
Unfortunately, the big problem with either an AVR or a Pre/Pro (+ PowerAmps) is that the specifications change with the Video/HDMI standards.
I had an IntegraDHC-80 which was @HDMIv1.4 and worked great with the last of the LG Plasma TVs. When it came time to step-up to an OLED-TV @HDMIv2.0, the Integra had to be 'retired'.
I wish there was a clean means of separating my audio hardware from the video hardware, because I see the day when my current RotelRSP1576Mk2 is going to be a laggard; when the new HDMIv?? comes out, in the next few years. Well, at least, my Rotel bricks don't have to be thrown out like my current Pre/Pro.
 
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andrew

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So, looking at all this again, there seem to be a few paths:
  1. Persist with the current design replacing the cheap HDMI Switch with Essense HDACC II-4K. This model sees the sources continue to be set-up to output PCM with HDACC stripping out the audio which I can use either as a Coax (S/PDIF) direct into DDRC-22D. The review of the HDACC seems to indicate that the S/PDIF output is fine.
  2. Move to an AVR such as the upcoming Onkyo that has Dirac Live Bass Control. This model would see the AVR downsampling to 2.1 with the front left / right pre-amp outputs sent to the main speakers and sub pre-amp output sent to the mini-DSP that would manage the fleet of 3 subwoofers.
I don't envisage moving to multi-channel but thought that DLBC might be advantageous. It seems, though, as if this is more about smoothing out the integration between the x/o from main speakers set to small and subwoofers whereas I seem to be getting good results from running the mains full-range as per Geddes. All in all option 1 is more appealing and perhaps the budget can be used to move from DDR2C to SHD.
 

pseudoid

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That Essence is an interesting piece of hardware but at a hefty price to the overall cost.
Balanced (XLR) outputs and "Audio Insert" to HDMI (rather than extract) are both interesting features. No sub, no eARC but you can probably patch it whereby an Integrated' (or a PrePro') OSD can still be displayed on the TV/Monitor.
 
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andrew

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That Essence is an interesting piece of hardware but at a hefty price to the overall cost.
Balanced (XLR) outputs and "Audio Insert" to HDMI (rather than extract) are both interesting features. No sub, no eARC but you can probably patch it whereby an Integrated' (or a PrePro') OSD can still be displayed on the TV/Monitor.
What’s the “audio insert” feature? I saw that the unit extracts the audio from the HDMI but nothing about audio insert.
 

mcdn

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For an almost identical use case I recently bought one of these for ~USD150 and I'm very satisfied: https://www.altronics.com.au/p/a3082-dynalink-4-way-4k-hdmi-switcher-with-audio-extractor-and-rs232/

It supports [email protected], strips the audio, offers audio services over ARC to the TV so the TV doesn't misbehave, responds reliably to IR commands, runs cool and seems well put together. I can only assume it passes the audio bitstream on unharmed as everything sounds the same as it did before. I have an Apple TV, Xbox Series S and a Nintendo Switch connected to it, with output going over Toslink to a MiniDSP 4x10HD.

The benefits are:
  • I now have one HDMI cable going to the TV instead of 3 HDMI cables and a Toslink
  • I don't have to worry about what the TV is doing to the sound (believe me you have to turn off a lot of crap to get unmangled sound out of a Sony TV Toslink port)
  • HDMI input switching is more reliable (the Sony TV could be a bit funny about inputs that went quiet then resumed if another was active in between)
 
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andrew

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Most of the A/V sources that I've got (e.g., Apple TV) can be set to output either Stereo, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital 5.1, and, with a stereo set-up, I've always used "Stereo". Two naive questions

  • Is this selection playing back stereo mixed soundtracks or down-mixing from multi-channel? [A bit of a google has informed me that Dolby Digital drops the LFE whereas Dolby Digital Plus keeps the LFE but I'm none the wiser what this actually means in practice.
  • And is there any problem or considerations with using a cheap AVR in the chain to downmix multi-channel to stereo with the LFE mixed into the Front Left and Front Right (noting that I've got subs to play the <80Hz content)? The thought here is that an added benefit of a (cheap) AVR is that it allows the LFE to be included in the mix)
 
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KMO

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In most video cases, there's only 1 soundtrack, so stereo will be a downmix done in the receiving device, if it's multichannel.

Some music streaming services may have separate stereo and multichannel mixes, but this is very rare in video.

If you had an AVR, and you actually have subs, it doesn't make much sense to send the LFE to the mains. Your best bet is to let the AVR do crossover, and take the bass load off the mains, and use its separate subwoofer output.

It might make sense to use an AVR to do LFE->mains if you didn't have a sub, and you had super-capable mains.
 
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andrew

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In most video cases, there's only 1 soundtrack, so stereo will be a downmix done in the receiving device, if it's multichannel.

Some music streaming services may have separate stereo and multichannel mixes, but this is very rare in video.

If you had an AVR, and you actually have subs, it doesn't make much sense to send the LFE to the mains. Your best bet is to let the AVR do crossover, and take the bass load off the mains, and use its separate subwoofer output.

It might make sense to use an AVR to do LFE->mains if you didn't have a sub, and you had super-capable mains.
FYI: I’ve got three subs but just front left / right speakers. The subs handle <80Hz for movies & music. No AVR at this point.

The question I’m asking is whether to add an AVR so that I can use bass management to add the LFE to stereo signal. (It seems as if the downmixing to stereo at the source drops LFE for Dolby Digital)
 

KMO

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I understand you want the LFE.

But why don't you want to use the subwoofer pre-out from the AVR?

Why would you want to run the AVR with 2.0 output rather than 2.1?
 

KMO

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Ah, right, I hadn't noticed you were the OP. Okay, given that set-up, where you're planning to do crossover post-AVR in the MiniDSP then the 2.0 output makes more sense. (I'd still do 2.1 myself if I had enough inputs, but I guess all the DSP bits are 2-channel.)

Main issue I see is that the output from the AVR will be analogue, and you've got to make sure you're giving yourself enough analogue headroom for the LFE. It seems to be fairly common practice to advise that the subwoofer trim in the AVR to be turned down several dB from nominal 0 to avoid maximum voltage limits on the pre-out. With LFE mixed into mains, you would possibly need to do the same to them. Which then means some signal/noise loss.

Do check that the AVR you're looking at can actually route LFE to FL+FR. Not sure how universal that is. (I recall in the past seeing complaints that a few receivers would drop LFE even if you had a subwoofer unless you had at least 5.1 speakers - any "downmix" at all would drop it).
 
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